1. Who knew the NFL was becoming the NBA? Hey, you want to be waived for a chance to go play for a contender, here’s your pink slip. First up was Kyle Orton being waived by the Broncos last week, paving his way to join the Kansas City Chiefs. This week, it is Sage Rosenfels and Donovan McNabb hitting the waiver wire with Rosenfels likely headed to Houston and McNabb possibility on his way to Dallas, where the Cowboys have concerns about Jon Kitna as their top backup quarterback. Frankly speaking, this practice is unfortunate and it is very likely that the league will correct this issue as soon as one of these late season releases ends up tilting the balance of power in a playoff race or in the playoffs.
2. Keeping with that theme, let’s go around the league and do a quick hit on the various quarterbacking situations that are looking quite muddy due to numerous injuries over the past couple of weeks. In Houston, rookie T.J. Yates is in but the Texans signed Jake Delhomme and are likely to put in a waiver claim for Rosenfels. Head coach Gary Kubiak says the Texans will rally around Yates and that sounds about as hollow an endorsement as you will find. Look for Yates to be on an extremely short lease and it won’t be a surprise if Rosenfels is under center by season’s end, provided the waiver process lands him in Houston.
3. In Kansas City, head coach Todd Haley is inexplicably standing by Tyler Palko although Palko is splitting reps on about a 60/40 basis with Orton. This proves that there is stubborn, but at a point stubborn becomes stupid. Haley’s insistence on starting Palko is an example of the latter. Palko’s arm strength is negligible, his running prowess was overstated (two carries for minus six yards in his two starts) and he has been a turnover machine (seven in two starts with six interceptions). With no touchdowns and just four field goals in his two starts, Palko has not been able to generate any kind of offensive rhythm for the Chiefs or even a big play to get them in scoring position. In a must win game this week against the Bears, it will shocking if Orton isn’t under center by the second quarter.
4. Down in Arizona, the Cardinals are set to hands the quarterback duties back to Kevin Kolb. While Kolb has been a huge disappointment after coming over in a trade with Philadelphia, backup John Skelton proved in his four starts that he is not yet ready for prime time. Skelton compiled a 3-1 record in those games but it’s fair to say that the Cardinals won more in spite of him than because he was solid. His lack of accuracy resulted in seven interceptions over the last three games and two of his wins came against the lowly Rams. The Cardinals will spend the balance of 2011 figuring out what they have in Kolb, who needs to display better accuracy and decision-making to prevent Arizona from spending a pick in the upper rounds in this year’s draft on a quarterback.
5. Over in Indianapolis, it was interesting to hear that the Colts will hand the quarterback reins over to Dan Orlovsky to turn around their 0-11 season. This is the same Dan Orlovsky who lost all seven of his career starts in 2008 for the Detroit Lions, a team that finished that year 0-16 in becoming the first (and only) NFL team to fail to win a game. So, what does Orlovsky bring to the table for Indianapolis? Let’s just say he’s experienced in going 0-16.
6. Sticking with Indy, quarterback Peyton Manning was advised by doctors that his neck is healing properly and that he should be ready to resume his career, almost certainly in 2012. The team has said that Manning is being kept on the active roster so that he can practice with the team prior to the end of the season. However, with the Colts expected to have the number one selection in the rookie draft, a roster that has numerous veteran free agents such as Reggie Wayne, Jeff Saturday and Robert Mathis and Manning due $28-million prior to the start of the league’s 2012 year, perhaps there is a chance that Manning is being kept on the active roster so that he can go under center for one final play to end his career with the Colts. Given the state of the team’s roster and quarterback Andrew Luck’s availability at the top of the 2012 draft, it would seem imprudent for the Colts to re-sign their veteran free agents, pay Manning his bonus and keep Luck as a backup while attempting to win the Super Bowl over the next two years. There is precedent for Manning going under center for one play. Isaac Bruce was finishing his career with the 49ers in 2009 as a game day inactive but dressed in the team’s final game as a starter, playing one play before calling it a day. Such a scenario would give Indy fans one final chance to salute a player who single-handedly made the team a perennial playoff and Super Bowl contender and will go down as one of the greatest, if not the greatest, player to ever play the game.
7. On the defensive side of the ball, the Eagles chose to spend heavily on their trio of Pro Bowl quality cornerbacks and along the defensive line and if there was ever a game that showcased the fallacy of this strategy, it was Thursday’s night loss to the Seahawks. Facing a determined running back in Marshawn Lynch, the Eagles linebackers failed to bring him down on several runs and compounding the problem was the play of the team’s safeties, who also missed several tackles and took horrendous angles. While Lynch is having perhaps the best stretch of games of his career, the Eagles used several eight-man fronts to slow him down last night but to little avail. The scheme was right but the fading Eagles simply don’t spend their cap in a manner to make it work.
8. Sticking with that game, it is now safe to conclude that Eagles quarterback Vince Young will not have the career renaissance that Michael Vick experienced after joining Philadelphia. Young’s poor decision making was on display several times as were his poor mechanics which resulted in a number of poorly thrown passes.
9. The Jack Del Rio era came to a crashing halt this week in Jacksonville as the Jaguars fired Del Rio and promoted defensive coordinator Mel Tucker to interim head coach. In nine seasons with the Jaguars, Del Rio compiled a 68-71 record and took the team to the playoffs twice, compiling a 1-2 record. However, he failed to win a division title and goes down as the longest tenured coach with one team that failed to accomplish that feat. Del Rio will likely be remembered most for his handling of the team’s quarterback situation, twice choosing to release an incumbent starter mere days prior to opening day (Byron Leftwich in 2007 and David Garrard this season), a move that other teams have rarely if ever, made.
10. The much-maligned Patriots defense has struggled against both the run and pass for much of this season but is reputedly getting stronger as the playoffs approach. Don’t believe it. While New England has improved to 12th against the run, they remain the league’s worst ranked pass defense and there is a quick explanation for both rankings. Over the past three weeks, the Patriots have faced struggling quarterbacks, starting with the Jets Mark Sanchez in Week 10, Vince Young of the Eagles in Week 11 and Tyler Palko of the Chiefs last week. They have played with a large lead in all contests, forcing their opponents to eschew the run for the pass. Up next are Dan Orlovsky (Colts), Rex Grossman (Redskins), Tim Tebow (Broncos) and Matt Moore (Dolphins). That’s good fortune folks, but the Patriots task will get much more difficult in the playoffs.